There is often no physical evidence of child sexual abuse, even when there is vaginal penetration.
Mothers, when your child tells you they are being sexually abused by your husband, or boyfriend, believe your child and do everything in your power to stop it from happening again. If there is no proof, then make certain he is not alone with the children. Ask your man to seek counseling. You can set up hidden cameras. You can read anything and everything on child sexual abuse and incest. Educate yourself. Speak with your children on a daily or weekly basis…ask them if anything is happening with their bodies along with their father (or your boyfriend)….even if it feels good to the child, they should feel safe and free to be able to tell you about it.
The mother in this article ignored her warning signal instincts. She had fears, doubts, and sensed it when she made up her girl’s beds in the morning. Did she take action or did she not want to know the truth?
“The guilt Teri Henderson felt after her young daughters revealed their father had spent years sexually abusing and terrifying them was overwhelming.
She beat herself up over it for years. She was suicidal at times. She felt she shouldn’t be their mother anymore.
“There was a time I didn’t think I deserved to be their mother,” Henderson said. “I was supposed to protect them, and how can this happen right under my nose? They’re my babies. And visualizing these things that he did. It’s horrible. It’s horrific.”
The guilt may be easy to understand, and it’s a common feeling among so-called nonoffending parents, but it’s a rarely discussed factor in a world already burdened by shame, secrets and denial.
Kelsey Manship, now 24, was just 2 when she told her mother that Robert Manship had hurt her. Henderson was “borderline hysterical,” but doctors couldn’t say for sure whether Kelsey had been abused.
Years passed, and Henderson always had doubts. She had fears that something was wrong. There was a sense of foreboding sometimes when she went to make the beds in the girls’ room after they left for school. Something was wrong.
But there was also so much doubt. What should she do? She couldn’t believe her husband of more than a decade would do such a thing. Neither did the few friends or family members to whom she went for advice. Did she break up her family without proof? Was she crazy?
“You think, ‘Is there something wrong with me?’ ” Henderson said. “Hindsight is 20-20, you know? I didn’t have any proof. I never saw anything.”
In 1995, having moved from a military base in New Jersey to Litchfield, the girls came forward. Henderson’s worst fears were true, and she snapped into action. It took a long time and international cooperation, but Robert Manship was sentenced to prison in May.
But the guilt was debilitating. The fact that the predator was inside her home made it worse in some ways.
“You sit as a mother and you watch outside as your kids are playing and you pray to God no one’s ever going to take them,” Henderson said. “And I remember telling my cousin one day, ‘God, he was right behind me the whole time.’ You don’t want your kids to be kidnapped and you worry about them all the time if they’re playing outside. They were safer outside than being in the house.”
Kristie Palestino, executive director of the Granite State Children’s Alliance, said Henderson’s plight is incredibly common among nonoffending parents.
“That’s actually a really great example,” she said. “It’s deeper than denial, but denial is what it ends up looking like. I think it’s really hard for the nonoffending parents because they’re also being lied to and manipulated.”
Palestino, who was discussing sexual abuse in general and not Henderson’s case specifically, said it’s also easy to blame the nonoffending parent from afar, to judge him or her for not finding out sooner or going to police faster.
“It’s just not as simple as that, and I think we have to be careful not to victim-blame,” she said. “There’s a million different reasons why this would happen, especially someone who wasn’t supported somehow.
“It’s just a really hard thing to report. There’s shame involved. There’s so many layers.”